Now, I bow to no one in my appreciation of female beauty and fancy clobber but I could not wrench the phantom of those children from my mind, in this moment I felt the integration; that the price of this decadence was their degradation. That these are not dislocated ideas but the two extremes are absolutely interdependent. The price of privilege is poverty. David Cameron said in his conference speech that profit is “not a dirty word”. Profit is the most profane word we have. In its pursuit we have forgotten that while individual interests are being met, we as a whole are being annihilated. The reality, when not fragmented through the corrupting lens of elitism, is we are all on one planet.
To have such suffering adjacent to such excess is akin to marvelling at an incomparable beauty, whose face is the radiant epitome of celestial symmetry, and ignoring, half a yard lower down, her abdomen, cancerous, weeping and carbuncled. “Keep looking at the face, put a handbag over those tumours. Strike a pose. Come on, Vogue.”
Suffering of this magnitude affects us all. We have become prisoners of comfort in the absence of meaning. A people without a unifying myth. Joseph Campbell, the comparative mythologist, says our global problems are all due to the lack of relevant myths. That we are trying to sustain social cohesion using redundant ideologies devised for a population that lived in deserts millennia ago. What does it matter if 2,000 years ago Christ died on the cross and was resurrected if we are not constantly resurrected to the truth, anew, moment to moment? How is his transcendence relevant if we do not resurrect our consciousness from the deceased, moribund mind of our obsolete ideologies and align with our conditions?
The model of pre-Christian man has fulfilled its simian objectives. We have survived, we have created agriculture and cities. Now this version of man must be sacrificed that we can evolve beyond the reaches of the ape. These stories contain great clues to our survival when we release ourselves from literalism and superstition. What are ideologies other than a guide for life? Throughout paganism one finds stories that integrate our species with our environment to the benefit of both. The function and benefits of these belief matrixes have been lost, with good reason. They were socialist, egalitarian and integrated. If like the Celtic people we revered the rivers we would prioritise this sacred knowledge and curtail the attempts of any that sought to pollute the rivers. If like the Nordic people we believed the souls of our ancestors lived in the trees, this connection would make mass deforestation anathema. If like the native people of America we believed God was in the soil what would our intuitive response be to the implementation of fracking?
I’m honored to announce that one of my first projects as Multimedia Editor of Jacobin Magazine is a companion video to “Class Action,” a critique of neoliberal education reform produced by Jacobin & the Chicago Teachers Union’s CORE Caucus.
I’m a bit late in blogging this news and now there’s only 10 hours left to back the project. Do it! Your money supports the printing of a full-color booklet documenting the destruction of America’s public schools currently taking place under the guise of “reform.” Copies will be given to unions & community groups to use for fundraising and organizing, but won’t be for sale online. But a $10 Kickstarter pledge gets you a physical copy. (My video will be available for free.)
The propaganda machine of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) is sophisticated and insanely well-funded, and has nearly succeeded in masquerading the gutting of our public school system as a “progressive” movement. The actual fruits of GERM include undermining teachers unions and democratic school boards through privately run charter schools; a counterproductive obsession with standardized testing and unidimensional “accountability”; and the shuttering of dozens of schools in cities across the country. The research supporting GERM ranges from non-existent to fraudulent. Rarely do these reforms benefit students, quite often the reverse, though the billionaires who fund the movement do stand to profit both directly and indirectly.
My video will be an attempt at a counter-narrative exposing the pernicious role that billionaire philanthropists and their foundations play in the “education reform” debate. The video will be based on an essay in the booklet by Joanne Barkan, who has done excellent reporting on the subject, and will feature images from Katrina Ohstrom of abandoned Chicago schools. This project is my first foray into the film essay, a form I’ve long admired. I hope I can do the material justice. Stay tuned!
I’ve finally uploaded the video of a seminar I shot back in March, GUARANTEED INCOME OR EMPLOYMENT: ECONOMIC RIGHTS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY. Of all 8 of the Modern Money & Public Purpose Lectures I attended & recorded, this one is perhaps the most important.
In particular, I recommend Pavlina Tcherneva’s lecture. She discusses her research on the Jefes program in Argentina, which provided government jobs to impoverished “Heads of Households” and is about as close as you can get to a real-life full employment program. The program was very successful on a number of levels. Contrary to the intentions of the program’s administrators, nearly 75% of the workers employed were women. They ended up socializing childcare, among other community services. The government preferred for women to stay at home and receive a basic income, but they could only get women to switch to a welfare system by shutting down the Jefes program.
Further reading can be found here & anyone interested in the subject should check out this semester’s schedule of Modern Money Network events. I’m the house videographer again this year, so if you can’t make it live, do check for the edited videos on youtube — hopefully I’ll be a bit more prompt getting them posted this time around!
Just noticed that the video I shot of the Modern Money Network’s MMT v. Austrian School debate was linked to in the New York Times. Unfortunately, the article it accompanies, a profile of Warren Mosler, is a bit of a hatchet piece, though no worse than you’d expect from such an outlet. And they published it on July 4, not exactly a day folks are eager to watch a two hour debate on macroeconomics.
Unless you are sympathetic to Austrian economics, I recommend Warren Mosler’s seminar with Stephanie Kelton over the debate for a (less painful) introduction to MMT:
[Update 5:40pm: edited “CIA” out of the title because I totally missed the context that the CIA in this article refers to a private group (albeit one which directly funded government programs) called the “Committee for Immigrants in America.” The Central Intelligence Agency didn’t exist until the Truman administration. While that CIA has had its tentacles/money behind many a propaganda campaign, some more surprising than others, this cannot be claimed among them. Many thanks to the gentle reader that pointed this out to me!]
The counterweight, the Americanization movement, was born in 1907 with the establishment of the North American Civic League for Immigrants, headed by conservative businessmen. Aligned groups. such as the New England Industrial Committee, were created as NACLI promoted its program.
The success of the Lawrence strike, which garnered national outrage due to police beatings of women who had volunteered to transport and harbor children of strikers, increased the urgency of countering the union threat. The message was that chambers of commerce, as “conservators of the ‘best interests’ of their communities” needed to educate (as in domesticate) adult alien workers. This Americanization movement had business backers in every sizable city with an immigrant population doing outreach to business organizations, church leaders, and other community groups. In 1914, NACLI decided to extend its program nation-wide, and changed its name to the Committee for Citizens in America. The CIA paid and provided staff to the Department of Education [correction: Federal Bureau of Education] to sponsor Americanization programs (private interests’ ability operate directly through the Federal government ended in 1919).
The outbreak of World War I was a Godsend to the Americanization movement. The war stoked nationalist sentiment and with it, suspicion of obvious aliens as at best “un American” and at worst, subversive. President Wilson spoke at a highly staged “patriotic” event for 5000 recently naturalized citizens in spring 1915. This event was so successful that the movement leaders succeeded in forming local Americanization committees all over the US. Quoting Carey:
The CIA also produced a brilliant propaganda strategy to involve every American in an annual ritual of national identification. This ritual would embed the cultural intolerance of the Americanization movement with an identification that was formally and officially sanctified. The CIA thereby launched its campaign for the fourth of July 1915 to be made a national Americanization Day, a day for a ‘great nationalistic expression of unity and faith in America’.
Carey describes and quotes a pamphlet promoting the event written by one of the executive committee members:
….the ultimate success of the policy would depend on how effectively the ‘average American citizen’ could be induced to bring the influence of his conservative views to bear on the immigrant….’such a citizen is the natural foe of the IWW and of the destructive forces that seek to direct unwisely the expressions of the immigrant in his new country and upon him rest the hope and defense of the country’s ideals and institutions.’ Here we have a blatant industrial and partisan view fused with an intolerance of the immigrant and values of national security, in a submission that would cement these interests and intolerances within the paraphernalia of the annual ritual of what would become Independence Day.
So excited for this:
MASSIVE ATTACK V ADAM CURTIS
STARTING IN TWO WEEKS TIME IN MANCHESTER, THEN GERMANY, NEW YORK
The show is a collaboration between myself and Robert del Naja of Massive Attack.
What links us is not just cutting stuff up – but an interest in trying to change the way people see power and politics in the modern world. To say to them – have you thought of looking at it like this?
We’ve used film, music, stories and ideas to try and do this – to build a new kind of experience. The best way we can describe it is “a Gilm” – a new way of integrating a gig with a film that has a powerful overall narrative and emotional individual stories.
The show will be a bit of a total experience. You will be surrounded by all kinds of images and sounds. But it is also about ideas. It tells a story about how a new system of power has risen up in the modern world to manage and control us. A rigid and static system that has found in those images and sounds a way of enveloping us in a thin two-dimensional version of the past.
A fake, but enchanting world which we all live in today – but which has also become a new kind of prison that prevents us moving forward into the future.
Along with Massive Attack the show will star two great singers.
The amazing Liz Fraser
And the wonderful Horace Andy
And some of the music will be surprising – from early Barbra Streisand to Siberian punk from the 1980s.
Here’s a two-dimensional trailer that will give you an idea of what the show is about – and the stories it tells.
Video I shot in 2011 of a lecture by Chris Seefer, an attorney at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP — the law firm responsible for collecting the “mountain of evidence” of a massive ratings agencies scandal, as documented in Matt Taibbi’s brutal article The Last Mystery of the Financial Crisis.